Afterward, she joined the Oklahoma State Department of Education as an early childhood specialist. While in this position, Paul proposed a program for 4-yearolds that has since made Oklahoma’s early childhood program number one in the nation for the past five years. Paul drafted the program’s model with three distinctive characteristics she refers to as Oklahoma standards. The first standard required the program to be available to all children, not just those from low-income families. Second, the program would only employ teachers certicerti fied in early-childhood education. In other states, it was customary to hire teachers who only had a high school diploma. And lastly, Paul’s program called for equal pay for early-childhood education teachers. In the past, the trend was for early childhood education teachers to be paid less. The standards Paul required for Oklahoma’s 4-year-old program is what makes it successful. Today, 75 percent of Oklahoma children attend the earlychildhood education program, a number unmatched by any other state, she says. “It’s wonderful,” Paul says. “It shows the importance of high quality early-childearly-child hood education.”
A number of studies have focused on Paul’s early-education program, which show the success of kindergarten students who participated in the early childhood education program versus those who did not. One five-year study by Georgetown University indicates students who participated in early education programs were socially and intellectually ahead of their counterparts. After working for the State Department of Education, Paul moved to the Oklahoma City Public Schools’ human resources department. When State Superintendent Sandy Garrett was elected, Paul returned to the State Department of Education, where she works today. Looking back on her career and her life’s work, Paul says Oklahoma State is where she and her family got their start. “My mother and father both have a master’s degree from OSU, and my brother and I are both OSU graduates,” Paul says. Today whenever she visits OSU, Paul says she notices its growth, especially new buildings such as the North Classroom Building and the numerous student suites and apartments. When Paul was a student, Willard and Murray halls were girls’ dormitories, and male and female students lived on different parts of campus.
Photo By gary laWSon
“My mother and father both have a master’s degree from OSU, and my brother and I are both OSU graduates.” — Ramona Paul
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“The main changes I see are the new programs and better facilities,” Paul says. “It’s still the same friendly university with high-quality faculty.” She also notes the excellent and exciting leadership of President Burns Hargis and his wife, Ann, as a new and positive change. Paul continues to stay involved with her alma mater. She has served about 20 years as an Associate for the College of Human Environmental Sciences and currently serves on the Alumni Association’s board of directors and is in her second year on the Women for OSU’s Leadership and Philanthropy Council board. “Through these organizations I have become associated with more universitysponsored events and alumni,” Paul says. She also funded a classroom in the Human Environmental Sciences building called the Ramona and Homer Paul Classroom, and she speaks to different classes when she can. She serves on the board for RISE, a special-needs program funded by the Oklahoma Legislature, OSU and private funds. For OSU and Oklahoma’s early development program, Paul has many hopes. “We will continue to expand programs for children even younger than 4 on a voluntary basis with highly trained teachers,” Paul says. “We want to provide the very best for our children.” S t e p h a n i e K . tay l o r